Curds and Whey

I’m a little off my game the last few days. I’ll blame it on the kitchen cabinet concussion. Last night I was closing up after a dance rehearsal, and for the first time in my life, I locked my keys in my car. That was me, standing alone in a dark parking lot in a leotard and leggings, talking to my car. “No. No. Come on. You’re not locked. This door’s open right?” But alas, the car wouldn’t accept my sweet murmurings of feigned love, and it was definitely locked. Luckily I was able to let myself back into the studio and call Joey, who promptly called our neighbor, borrowed her car so that he could bring me the extra key, and borrowed her daughter so that she could babysit while he drove to my rescue. Have you ever heard of a lamer reason to hire a babysitter? We were going to try to hit her up for a night this week so that we could see Star Trek, but we blew our babysitting currency on my little incident.
Good thing I made bread earlier in the day. Although I’ve often aspired to be, I’m not a regular bread maker. I go through waves, where I make several loaves of decent albeit yeasty tasting dense bread. But I made this bread because a few days earlier I made ricotta cheese, and I had a lot of whey in my fridge, desperately looking for a purpose (well maybe it was me desperately looking for a purpose, but you get my meaning). So I made English Muffin Bread, made with whey, and it was pretty tasty. Excellent toast. And I had an extra loaf to send home to my heroic neighbor. Oh Hannah, words cannot express…
So I’m going to tell you about both the ricotta and the bread today. The ricotta is so easy, it’s almost criminal, and you’ll make it and then you’ll have whey, desperately looking for a purpose. Then, you make bread.
The fabulous Lisa Michele inspired me with a chronicle of her homemade ricotta, and I couldn’t wait to start. I poured my milk, I heated, I squeezed my lemon juice. But contrary to what was supposed to happen, the milk wouldn’t curdle. I have no doubt that her instructions would work for anyone who is not off her game for a few days, but the lemon juice didn’t do the trick for me. So I went searching and found that vinegar can also be used, and the milk curdled beautifully.

Homemade Ricotta
makes 2 cups

8 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup white vinegar
salt to taste

Heat the milk and cream together until it comes to a boil, then take off the heat. Add the vinegar and stir for one minute. The mixture will curdle immediately. Cover with dish towel and let sit for at least two hours.
Then line a colander with cheese cloth. Pour the curds and whey into the colander, making sure that you have a pot or bowl underneath to catch the whey.

Refrigerate the whey. Put the colander with the curds, along with the bowl, into the fridge to drain for up to 24 hours, depending on how dry you want your ricotta. Salt to taste.

English Muffin Bread with Whey
from Home Cheese Making by Ricki Carroll

Makes 4 loaves

2 T sugar
1 1/3 cups warm water
4 packages or 4 T active dry yeast
cornmeal, for sprinkling
12 cups sifted all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
4 cups whey (milk will work too)
4 tsp salt

Dissolve the sugar in the water.
Pour the yeast into a large bowl. Add the sugar water and let sit for ten minutes.
Grease four loaf pans and sprinkle with cornmeal.
In a large bowl, combine six cups of the flour with the baking soda.
In a medium sized saucepan, combine the whey and salt and warm over low heat until lukewarm.
Stir the yeast mixture, then pour the warm whey into it. Stir to combine.
Pour the yeast mixture into the flour mixture and stir. Add the remaining flour and combine. Keep stirring until all the flour is absorbed.
Spoon the batter into the prepared pans. Sprinkle the tops with cornmeal. Let rise until the center is 1 1/2 inches above the rim of the pan.
Bake for 30 minutes.


  1. lisamichele says

    Alana..thank you so much for your kind words.
    That said, I love that you made the ricotta as it came out great, but I love it even more that you provided a recipe for bread using the whey! It sounds wonderful!

    • says

      I am going to try this too. I just started atmtpteing yogurt, inspired by your yogurt post. My first try I used the keep warm setting on the crock pot – too hot, threw it out. Next try, on top of the warm stove during a day of baking. Came out pretty well, a little runny, but maybe it always would. Not too practical for my main method since rarely do I have the stove on that much. Third try, in an insulated casserole dish with hot pack microwaved to as hot as it can go. It made yogurt, but again, a little thin. Maybe I should get a yogurt maker, or maybe this is as good as it gets? Any thoughts would be appreciated.

      • alana says

        I would try the crock pot again and keep a real eye on it- otherwise with your other methods, it it’s coming out too runny, try adding some nonfat dry milk powder when you add the culture, and that should thicken it up.

  2. jessica says

    ah yes…the flour helped me too!! the egg white…a total flop!
    cute photo of your daughter too :)

    • says

      I’ve been making my own soft chesees for about a year now – thanks to Barbara Kingsolver and Ricky :) It’s sooooooo….. easy! I do have some problems with mozzerella – if I don’t carefully follow instructions it does’t set up properly – but all the others are just so super easy. Along with all the obvious benefits – like better taste and saving $ I know when I make these chesees what the ingredients are and where they came from. I am also not purchasing additional packaging which has to be disposed of or recycled in some way.Does it always turn out perfect? No! But the mistakes are always good in lasagna or some other pasta dish or used to bake with. I have never – NEVER – thrown away a batch because it didn’t turn out as expected.Lindy in the Sonoran Desert where we rarely need much heat in the winter.

  3. Laurie says

    TY for ricotta recipe,I’ve been looking for basic cheese recipes. Bread with whey is grand,my dogs love whey but using it for my own consumption is even better!

  4. Donna says

    Would this work with Almond Milk?? My youngest, pickiest child is allergic to dairy and I am always looking for ways to keep it out of her diet- not easy- but skim milk gives her the least trouble and almond milk works in recipes she can’t ‘see’ it in 😀 Thanks for all the great recipes!

    • alana says

      Hi Donna! Okay, first off I have to say that my ricotta making has evolved a bunch since this. I now make it with lemon juice, and with a much slower heat time. (That method can be found pretty much in the post in the recipe list for “small curd ricotta”) As for almond milk, I’m not sure if it will curdle! I’m going to do some research and I’ll get back to you. And if any one else out there has thoughts on this, definitely jump in.

  5. Keisha says

    I love the idea of making these types of foods at home. However, I am a little confused–it takes 9 cups of milk to make just 2 cups of ricotta? Do you end up with 7 cups of whey?


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